Apr. 11, 2012
If Joseph Carini's carpets came with ingredients listed, people would learn that they're in fact walking on wild Himalayan cherry, rhubarb, lemons, pomegranates, black walnuts and all manner of wild edible herbs and flowers. The idea that great food, like great design, relies heavily on both the perfect ingredients and the imagination of the creator was the inspiration for a private dinner held this week in the new Bon Appetit Kitchen, a dining/entertaining space built especially to showcase the food-as-lifestyle positioning of über-editor Adam Rapoport's much-buzzed-about new refresh of the popular Condé Nast culinary monthly Bon Appetit.
The talented chef for the night was Matthew Lightner, of the brand new TriBeCa temple of foraged cuisine, Atera, which opened last week and is already booked through May. Perhaps becasue his dishes are things like "rock" of bergamot sorbet and "birch tree and sap". They defy description but we'll try. Matt incorporated lots of the carpet "ingredients" into his menu just for us - like the tantalizing layer of frozen rhubarb juice that was hiding between the yogurt and the disk of blackened hay dust (top) flavored with wild licorice and accompanied by a teeny tiny salad of pepper cress, wild nasturtium, violets, maple flowers and other tasty micro loveliness. All oof this because Joe Carini uses a rhubarb called Padamchal to create tones of orange and gold in his carpets. Matt also included nettles that Joe uses as carpet fiber, and to our delight he also made the ridiculously delicious "black walnuts and the shell" (above) which were actually truffles filled with a caramel the likes which none of us had ever tasted, as an homage to Joe's use of black walnuts and their shells to create rich browns that are incredibly light-fast and enduring.
To put the design and food foraging concepts together, Bon Appetit enlisted New York's premiere "tablescapist", the imaginative and fun interior designer Michael Tavano, who stars in the UK's wildly popular BBC television series "House of the Year". Michael, who said he "took inspiration from what Joe does with botanicals and from Matt's dishes," started with an enormous (the size of a small putting green) custom silk tablecloth with woven golden mesh fabric overlays and gold dappled chocolate damask custom napkins, all sewn by hand in his very own workroom-to-the-stars, MT Custom. On that posh foundation, he placed rustic cross cut tree trunk "placemats" which he cut himself at his country house in the Hudson Valley with a chainsaw. Down the center of the table for twenty, Michael created an enchanted forest, using all of the raw ingredients for the botanical dyes and for the meal that was to come, as well as balls of our own hand spun and hand dyed wool and silk yarns (some under glass cloches to express their dear nature), bowls brimming with color poms and small specimen jars of madder root, pomegranate and other dried botanicals that Joe has collected in the Katmandu Valley.
Michael finished his glam-organic concept with the latest art/design collaboration freshly launched by California artist Aaron R. Thomas for DESIGNLUSH, adding to the lounge area two foraged tree stump tables enrobed in real metals - silver and rose gold - using a unique process of spraying molten liquid metal onto organic forms that Aaron Thomas has borrowed from industrial production and brought for the first time to home decor. "We could use a thousand of those for our Hong Kong projects," said AvroKO's Kristina O'Neal - designers are always at work. In the tablescape, DESIGNLUSH's trivets and coasters made of cross-cut, delightfully gnarly Kona Coffee wood enrobed in pure silver added a literal silver lining to the raw and living botanical display.
To really take the whole thing over the top, Atera's GM Eamon Rockey brought in all of the restaurant's fashionable and innovative plating and serving pieces (which include slate slabs, bark boats, wood flatware stands and lots of intensely beautiful matte glazed ceramics, all designed to enhance and underscore each plating to perfection) and Sommelier Alexander La Pratt brought along dozens of wine stems for his perfect pairings - a different wine for each course.
The evening celebrated the design of the BA Kitchen, as they call it, which is nestled in an intimate space across the Condé Nast elevator bank (yes, those elevators) from the storied Frank Gehry-designed cafeteria at the 4 Times Square publishing tower. Only a select few will ever get to see the inside of the BA Kitchen, which is a shame because it was thoughtfully and charmingly designed by restaurant concept specialists AvroKO - of Stanton Social, Public, Saxon + Parole and dozens of top restaurants we all love. When Bon Appetit VP and Publisher Pamela Drucker Mann's team came to us came to us last Fall to let us know AvroKO's designers were asking for a Carini Lang carpet for the space, all we could think of was the top editors in the world strolling across an expanse of Carini Lang silk in their not-yet-released Brian Atwood's, and we were IN! AvroKO principal William Harris (in conversation with Joe at the BA dinner, below, along with New York Times Retail Reporter Stephanie Clifford and restaurant designer Stephanie Goto), and his partners Greg Bradshaw and Kristina O'Neal, all of whom joined us for the celebration, selected Joe's Scratchout Aqua for the lounge area. Turns out we're in great company with other top design brands in the space that make thoughtfully designed and beautiful things including Sub Zero, Wolf, Brizo and Wustof. The consulting chefs on the project were no slouches either: Tom Colicchio, Marcus Samuelsson and Eric Ripert.
Since it opened, the coolness of this place has just gotten more and more exciting. Suffice to say the DJ for the opening party to christen the space was none other than ?uestlove, who was launching his new passion project ?uestlovesfood.
So, from music's Roots to last evening's madder root species jars and the sassafras root in Matt Lightner's insanely yummy so-bbq'd-it's-actually-sticky "lamb and the pasture" (below), the BA Kitchen is at the root of what's new and innovative in the culinary and design world in 2012. Just ask any of our special guests, such as Celerie Kemble and husband Boykin Curry who stepped off a plane and into our foraging dreamscape. Hospitality designer extraordinaire Stephanie Goto (Corton, Morimoto, Aldea, Monkey Bar etc etc) was a few days away from leaving for Milan and then the Far East where she's working on several projects. The Atera team is about a week into their opening and Michael Tavano is getting married later this week. But whatever we were up to, on Monday night, in the BA Kitchen, time stood still and all of our VIP guests reported that they were quite happy to have taken time out of crammed calendars for this one-of-a-kind dining experience. So, if you are invited to dine at either the BA Kitchen or Atera, or anywhere that Michael Tavano makes a tablescape, all we can say is drop everything and GO, GO, GO!
Photos in this post: Rick Lew, Matt Duckor/Bon Appetit